As children, we learn numerous other essential life skills from play. We learn how to get along with others and how to practice self-control lest we lose our playmates due to a tantrum. And play makes us happy. So, is it surprising that happiness has been linked to success? I suppose you can be successful without being happy (Donald Trump) but are you enjoying the success?

A successful happy life is also linked with humor because laughter is a direct antidote to pessimism and discouragement. So to attempt to lead a successful life, it would seem we need to start shopping from the happiness aisle. And if that means playing more, so be it.

 dog pillow on couch from Playtime post on

According to Dr. Alan Marlatt of the University of Washington, if we make the play activities ‘shoulds’ and not ‘wants’, “We run the risk of burn-out and turn to alcohol and other chemical substances to give us relief that we get from play”. Um, yes.

Play activities need to be “want” activities and not “should” activities. And I can say I have spent so very much time stuck in the “But I need to get this done and I should accomplish that before I let myself play” section of that other aisle. Such a habit of wanting to accomplish but not realizing I no longer valued fun and lived in a constant state of boredom, continual hard labor, and adultness. Until recently when I have discovered Creative Flow and am Connecting the Dots of creative self.

 Fiona and Mr Crackers from Playtime post on

What kind of parent would I be if I did this to my children. Even as a farmer with multiple children, if I needed to till the garden and plow the fields and rethatch the roof, I would still need to cut those laborers some slack to get their yayas out. Because that’s what you do.

In my graduation to adulthood, I forgot what it was like to be a child. To play and learn and wonder and add to the world I am in. I became subsistence girl. Survival mode keeps you alive alright. But it is our destiny to do more than just survive. We have the gift to live and thrive and grow.

jammling on that xylophone from

So I vow to give myself way more time to play. Whatever that means and however I can make that happen. Play is more important than I have ever given it credit. And so is happiness. Happiness is all it’s cracked up to be.

On Being Here Now

As we plow into another weekend, I take a moment to say,

here I am. I’m being here now.

Red balloon on the ceiling from On Being Here Now from

I’m busy but I’m being here now, for myself and for my family.

He asked me why I look so busy all the time.

Eamon and the red balloon from On Being Here Now from

I said because I had four people to take care of.

And then I was asked to list them.

Eamon and the red balloon from On Being Here Now from

Another week’s ended.

The children have grown in some small way and

the weekend will hold moments dear to us forever.

Eamon holds Fiona from from On Being Here Now from

I stayed here and did my best this week

for today is all I’ll ever have

and almost more than my heart can bear.

Gathering My Lessons : Lesson #153

What you do for your bosses, husband, and children they’ll come to expect.

I coined this expression when I used to clean houses for a living. I was kind enough to wash and redistribute towels in a client’s bathroom. And the next time I cleaned for her, she was indignant that I’d not done this again. I had never agreed to it as part of my cleaning services to begin with. But somehow, my kindness had turned on me and become an expectation.


Now I am married with children and, at this very moment, I am listening to my little 6 month old red-headed daughter scream and shudder because she thinks I should be retrieving her from her nap. Except, if you’ve napped enough, do you scream? I think not. Death Nap Match of the Fall of 2013 has begun. Rule of thumb is that a well napped child is not screaming and is pleasant to be around. I’m in for the penny and pound as I see this tactic through.

Mother’s have a horribly hard time allowing their children to do things for themselves. And by rushing in, we rob them of many opportunities of creating competency. In this instance, comforting and putting themselves back to sleep. But I could include in this generality, and you’d agree, wiping their butts, cutting up their meat, tying their shoes, and speaking for themselves. Not only will they expect you to continue to do so, they secretly believe you are telling them they’re incapable of doing it themselves. That’s no good.

cookbook corner

As for the husband? Save maybe 6 hours, I’ve spent these past 180 days straight with the daughter. He’s panicked at the thought of spending any alone time with the “baby” for fear he’ll do something wrong. She seems to cry when he’s alone with her. If we don’t create the opportunity for them to bond, how will they? It may be a rough ride but they’ll live through it. He’ll create competency and I’ll get some alone time.

Oh, you want to know what happened with the screaming baby? Of course I went and got her. After her hollering for 40 minutes straight, she was getting hoarse with no signs of letting up. I picked her up and held her silently rocking her. And after a few minutes I laid her down to change her and there were no apparent hard feelings from either of us. Her eyes are bleary and it’s as if nothing ever happened. Until next nap time.

cigar boxes

Be careful what you choose to do because you and the world, and your child, may expect it of you ever after. We are all entitled to our boundaries, to our needs, and to being proud of them when they learn they can do without us.

Vacate Home

(Originally published on Divine Caroline in September of 2009)

Ask my husband about his family’s vacations and he will deliver a chirpy recount of playing guitar at beach campfires, sleeping in a pop-up camper, and the frolicking multitude of cousins. My fractured family vacation memory is one trip to a cabin. There was yelling involved. Add the 15-mile endurance hikes complete with gorp and hard-earned sleep on the ground, a coincidental side effect of divorce and my mother’s new beau, and I don’t have much for the great outdoors or vacations.

Then I grew up, got hitched, had a kid and me and mine just returned from our annual September sojourn to the beach. Yes, it is off-season (also known as hurricane season), but I sleep in a king size bed and relax knowing the rates and crowds are halved. Crowds do not relax me, but neither does wearing a bathing suit. Sacrifices.

Back when we were only “two for dinner,” my husband and I traveled a few times. Our first trip was to England and Ireland. This trip clinched my future “I Do” to this man. If the long leg cramping plane ride, jet lag, and barreling down the side of a mountain in a Ford Fiesta on the wrong side of the road in the pouring rain doesn’t stress you out enough to even bicker, he’s the one. We each had our duties; he was the money man and I was the navigator. We still have these roles in our daily life.

Our first beach trip was a birthday celebration for me and we checked into our hotel anticipating a little vacation nookie. We agreed, “Nice pool” and “Killer water slide.” The next time we visited, I was knocked up guaranteeing our future return with a “family” perspective.

We took no vacations with our baby. He was already too much work. I couldn’t imagine spending all that money to not relax. We didn’t even eat out a lot in his third year because mostly he’d act like a jackass when we did and, once again, I didn’t want to waste the money.

We finally took the kid on an overnight when he was three and a half. It was okay. He was thrilled to press the elevator button, ride on the luggage cart, and find our room by reading the numbers. Although, when we told him it was time to go to sleep, he said he was ready to go home and sleep in his own bed. I spent that night sleepless, in and out of both beds, and the kid slept soundly.

This year’s trip proved he’s a big boy. I did not constantly feel irked or think about his every need. We ate out three times and he ate a third of his food each time. Huge deal. Not a lot of back-up food was really necessary. Other highlights included hunting down a special shovel and bucket set for the low, low price of 8.49 plus tax. This made the beach an event.

Every year we improve our experience. This year we found a restaurant with a playground, sand floor, good food and beer, and a sunset water view. And though we neglected to bring a DVD for the hotel room, Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood playing on a classic movie channel did the trick. Pirate themed putt-putt golf was a riot. Little dude’s job was to sink the final shots into the cup which he did stooped over and choked up on his little orange putter. We got some great pictures and, fortunately, I was wearing makeup!

I wanted to travel the boardwalk in one of those multi-person pedaling cycle cart things called a surrey. Much like the Flintstone mobiles, it took all your leg power to get it moving. And when a certain four-year-old had to sit on the steering wheel lap to steer and weave his way up the boardwalk through terrified pedestrians, the remaining person was pedaling. That was me. The lap person’s job was equally hard balancing the bruising of the driver’s sensibilities with the saving of lives by grabbing the wheel or slamming on the break. The heat and humidity were an added bonus.

Our last hurrah has become the arcade on the boardwalk followed by fries, lemonade, and a photo-booth picture. This year I added shopping, of course. Jewelry for me and pirate tee for the boy.

It took me a day to realize I didn’t have to do much of anything. Maybe you have to vacate home to focus on the small stuff that doesn’t include the dirty floor, bills, laundry, incomplete projects, or upcoming events that lack to do lists. I sat and I read a lot. And I really did enjoy just being. I enjoyed being the mother of the a cute kid on at the beach. I enjoyed the cool husband who took the first shift in the pool. I enjoyed spraying really cold water-repellent sun block on my kid which made him scream. I enjoyed going down the water slide with this cute ghostly pale kid with the shark swimmy on who yanked off his wet shorts when we got out of the pool.

Sometimes, you need a special mental and physical zone where you have nothing to do but enjoy the scenery. You may need to vacate your comfort zone and find a place where you prioritize creating memories and smiles and tradition. Where you spend a little extra time and money to enjoy your people and the life you usually take for granted and where you generate the photo-op for this year’s Christmas card. Did I mention the kid’s really really cute?


Survivor’s Guilt

Discovering I was pregnant at 45 years old was undoubtedly one whomping miraculous gift of amazing proportions. Whereas last time I discovered my impending parenthood my shock was due to my feelings of complete incompetency. This time my shock was simply because my fondest wish and hope had actually been realized. I could not believe it. When I shared my news, people asked me if this was a good thing because of the shocked expression I wore. Because I wasn’t sure I was worthy of such a blessing.

With this pregnancy, I have been suffering from a feeling akin to survivor’s guilt. I am keenly aware that many women I’m close to have had “issues” with their lack of children. Whether they regretted not choosing to conceive while they could, or they were unable to conceive for reasons beyond their control, I feel for them. I can remember feeling rankled by the arrogance of some breed-easy people. And here I am suddenly luckier than a leprechaun pulling the short straw.

I wanted to apologize for my good fortune. In fact I did to one friend. I dreaded being a source of new found grief for the unresolved sadness of my dear friends. I felt as if I couldn’t write about it. And this is a sure sign that there something not quite right in my head. Because that’s crazy talk. Again, low self-esteem may be to blame for my feelings of unworthiness of my happiness or any future help I will receive in my time of need. Because I’ll need help.

Further, I’m thinking, anyone who’d begrudge me my happiness, in whatever form it comes, may need to consider why? “I’m happy,” I told my husband and he said “Good, you deserve to be”. And then I asked why he said that? Because I have had enough of grief and misery for a lifetime? Because pregnant ladies deserve to be happy to counterbalance their tough job ahead?  Or because he loves me unconditionally and always wants me happy? “All of it”, he says.

Every time I think about what’s happening inside me and how my life will be better than I can even know, I get butterflies. I could continue to feel guilty but I just can’t anymore. And when I heard the half a second of the baby’s heartbeat yesterday, I know it’s the real deal. And it’s all good.


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